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Japan Extends Afghanistan Military Mission

Japanese lawmakers have extended a naval refueling mission that supports a U.S.-led anti-terrorism effort in the Indian Ocean.

Friday's vote in the lower house of parliament extends the mission in the Indian Ocean until January 2010. The Japanese naval forces refuel foreign vessels participating in U.S. operations in Afghanistan.

The mission was rejected earlier by the upper house of parliament, which is controlled by the main opposition party. The measure was then sent back to the more powerful lower house, which is controlled by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The refueling mission first began in 2001. It was briefly suspended last year after opposition lawmakers blocked an extension. Many of them see the mission as a breach of Japan's postwar constitution, which limits the military to a self-defense posture.

Japan is preparing to withdraw its air forces from Iraq by the end of the year, ending a four-year mission supporting the U.S.-led invasion.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.